Production of Activated Char and
Producer Gas Sewage Sludge
Young Nam Chun
According to the depletion of fossil fuel and global warming, energy conversion technology
for waste has been considered as value added alternative energy source. Among the
potential waste that can be converted into energy, waste sludge continues to be increased
due to increased amount of waste water treatment facilities, resulting from industry
development and population increase. Most of waste sludge was treated through landfill,
incineration, and land spreading (Fullana et al, 2003; Inguanzo et al, 2002; Karayildirim et al,
2006). However, landfill requires the complete isolation between filling site and surrounding
area due to leaching of hazardous substance in sludge, and has the limited space for filling
site. Utilization of sludge as compost incurs soil contamination by increasing the content of
heavy metal in soil, and causes air pollution problem due to spreading of hazardous
component to atmosphere. Incineration has the benefits of effective volume reduction of
waste sludge and energy recovery, but insufficient mixing of air could discharge hazardous
organic pollutant especially in the condition of low oxygen region. In addition, significant
amount of ashes with hazardous component will be created after incineration.
As alternative technology for the previously described sludge treatment methods,
researches on pyrolysis (Dominguez et al, 2006; Fullana et al, 2003; Karayildirim et al, 2006)
and gasification treatment (Dogru et al, 2002; Phuphuakrat et al, 2010) have been conducted.
Pyrolysis/gasification can produce gas, oil, and char that could be utilized as fuel, adsorber
and feedstock for petrochemicals. In addition, heavy metal in sludge (excluding cadmium
and mercury) can be safely enclosed. It is treated at the lower temperature than incineration
so that amount of contaminant is lower in pyrolysis gasification gas due to no or less usage
of air. Moreover, hazardous components, such as dioxin, are not generated. However
utilization of producer gas from pyrolysis gasification into engine and gas turbine might
cause the condensation of tar. In addition, aerosol and polymerization reaction could cause
clogging of cooler, filter element, engine inlet, etc (Devi at el, 2005; Tippayawong &
As the reduction methods of tar component, in-pyrolysis gasifier technology (IPGT) and
technology after pyrolysis gasifier (TAPG) were suggested. Firstly, IPGT does not require
the additional post-treatment facility for tar removal, and further development is required
for operating condition and design of pyrolysis gasifier. Through these conditions and
technical advancement, production of syngas with low tar content can be achievable, but
cost and large scaled complex equipments are needed (Bergman et al, 2002; Devi et al, 2003).
136 Integrated Waste Management – Volume I
Secondly, multi-faceted researches on TAPG, such as thermal cracking (Phuohuakrat et al,
2010; Zhang et al, 2009), catalysis (Pfeifer & Hofbauer, 2008), adsorption (Phuohuakrat et al,
2010), steam reforming (Hosokai et al, 2005; Onozaki et al, 2006; Phuohuakrat et al, 2010),
partial oxidation (Onozaki et al, 2006; Phuohuakrat et al, 2010), plasma discharge (Du et al,
2007; Guo et al, 2008; Nair et al, 2003; Nair et al, 2005; Tippayawong & Inthasan, 2010; Yu et
al, 2010; Yu et al, 2010), etc have been conducted. For thermal cracking, higher than 800°C is
required for the reaction, and its energy consumption surpass the production benefit.
Catalyst sensitively reacts with contaminants such as sulfur, chlorine, nitrogen compounds
from biomass gasification. Also, catalyst can be de-activated due to cokes formation, and
additional energy cost to maintain high temperature is needed. For adsorption, there were
several researches utilizing char, commercial activated carbon, wood chip and synthetic
porous cordierite for tar adsorption. In case of adsorbers having mesopore, adsorption
performance of light PAH tars, such as naphthalene, anthracene, pyrene, etc excluding light
aromatic hydrocarbon tar (benzene, toluene, etc) was superior.
Tar reduction in steam reforming, partial oxidation and plasma discharge can produce
syngas having major compounds of hydrogen and carbon monoxide through reforming and
cracking reaction. The steam reforming has a good characteristic in high hydrogen yield. But
it requires high temperature steam which consumes great deal of energy. In addition, longer
holding time might require larger facility scale. On the contrary, partial oxidation reforming
features less energy consumption, and has the benefit of heat recovery due to exothermic
reaction. However, hydrogen yield is relatively small, and large amount of carbon dioxide
discharge is the disadvantage. Researches on tar decomposition via plasma discharge were
conducted in dielectric barrier discharge (DBD) (Guo et al, 2008), single phase DC gliding
arc plasma (Du et al, 2007; Tippayawong & Inthasan, 2010; Yu et al, 2010), and pulsed
plasma discharge (Nair et al, 2003). Compared to conventional thermal and catalytic
cracking, the plasma discharge shows the higher removal efficiency due to the formation of
radicals. However, high cost of preparation of power supply and short life cycle is the key
for improvement. A 3-phase arc plasma applied for tar removal is easy to control the
reaction, and has high decomposition efficiency along with high energy efficiency. That is to
say; all the methods have limitation in the waste sludge treatment for producing products
and removing tar in the producer gas. Therefore, the combination of both IPGT and TAPG
should be accepted as a new alternative method for with feature of environment-
In this study, thermal treatment system with pyrolysis gasifier, 3-phase gliding arc plasma
reformer, and sludge char adsorber was developed for energy and resource utilization of
waste sludge. A pyrolysis gasifier was combined as screw pyrolyzer and rotary carbonizer
for sequential carbonization and steam activation, and it produced producer gas, sludge
char, and tar. For the reduction of tar from the pyrolysis gasifier, a 3-phase gliding arc
plasma reformer and a fixed adsorber bed with sludge char were implemented. System
analysis in pyrolysis gasification characteristics and tar reduction from the thermal
treatment system were achieved.
2. Experimental apparatus and methods
2.1 Sludge thermal treatment system
A pyrolysis gasification system developed in this study was composed of pyrolysis gasifier,
3-phase gliding arc plasma reformer, and fixed bed adsorber, as shown in figure 1.
Production of Activated Char and Producer Gas Sewage Sludge 137
A pyrolysis gasifier was designed to be a combined rig with a screw carbonizer for pyrolysis
of dried sludge and a rotary activator for steam activation of carbonized material. The screw
carbonizer was manufactured as feed screw type for carbonization of dried sludge. Feed
screw controls the holding time of dried sludge at carbonizer according to motor revolution
number. The screw carbonizer features dual pipe, and steam holes were installed at radial
direction of external wall, and high pressure steam is discharged to activator radially. The
rotary activator is composed of rotary drum with vane and pick-up flight, indirect heating
jacket, pyrolysis gas outlet, gas sampling port, char outlet, etc. Retention time of activated
sludge is controlled via number of rotation for a rotary drum. A sludge feeding device is for
holding of dried sludge in a dried sludge hopper which is installed at inlet of the combined
pyrolysis gasifier. A screw feeder is installed at the bottom of the hopper, and controls the
input amount of dried sludge via revolution number. The feeder feeds the dried sludge into
the screw carbonizer. A hot gas generator is for producing hot gas to heat a heating jacket
and supplys hot steam into a rotary drum. It was composed of a combustor with burner and
a steam generator.
A 3-phase gliding arc plasma reformer was installed at downstream of outlet for the
pyrolysis gasifier. The gliding arc plasma reformer utilized a quartz tube (55 mm in
diameter, 200 mm in height) for insulation and monitoring purposes, and a ceramic
connector (Al2O3, wt 96%) in electrode fixing was adopted for complete insulation between
three electrodes. The three conical electrodes in 120° (95 mm in length) were installed,
maintaining 3 mm gap. At the inlet of the plasma reformer, a orifice disc with 3 mm hole for
injection of producer gas was installed. A 3-phase AC high voltage power supply unit
(Unicon Tech., UAP-15K1A, Korea) was used for stable plasma discharge at the inside of the
A sludge char adsorber was made of a fixed bed cylinder (76 mm in diameter, 160 mm in
length), and installed at the rear section of the plasma reformer. To fix the packing material
at an adsorber, a porous distributer in stainless steel (25-mesh) was installed at the upper
part. The porous distributer was made in a honeycomb ceramic for preventing channeling
effect of input producer gas.
Fig. 1. Experimental setup of a pyrolysis gasification
138 Integrated Waste Management – Volume I
Experiment was conducted at optimal condition for high quality porosity in sludge char and
for the largest amount of combustible gas formation. The experimental conditions and each
temperature condition were given in table 1. All the data in experiments were taken after
stabilizing temperatures at each part, particularly the screw carbonizer and rotary activator.
After finishing experiment by setting condition, sludge char in a char outlet is cooled up to
room temperature by nitrogen passed the pyrolysis gasifier to protect the oxidation of the
sludge char by air. Gas was sampled for 5 minutes in a stainless cylinder at the sampling
ports of each pyrolysis gasifier, plasma reformer, and adsorber (Refer a gas sampling line in
section 2.3.2). For tar sampling, it was conducted for 20 minutes by tar sampling method (as
shown section 2.2), and total amount of gas was measured with a gas-flow meter. For a test,
the gas and tar sampling were conducted 3 times during test time of 120 minutes stably, and
the taken data were averaged. Adsorption capacity of sludge char was calculated from
weight of adsorber before/after experiment divided by test time.
Steam feed amount Moisture content of dried Retention time (min)
(mL/min) sludge (%)1) Activator Carbonizer
10 9.8 30 30
Temperature (°②) in each part
Combustor Carbonizer Activator Adsorber
1,010 450 820 450 400 35
1) Moisture content of dried sludge is average number
Table 1. Detailed conditions in each section
2.2 Tar sampling and analysis methods
Tar sampling and analysis were used by the method of biomass technology groups (BTGs)
(Good et al, 2005; Neeft, 2005; Phuohuakrat et al, 2010; Son et al, 2009; Yamazaki et al, 2005).
Wet sampling module was installed with 6 impingers (250 mL) in two separated isothermal
baths for adsorption of tar and particles. At the first isothermal bath, 100 mL of isopropanol
was filled into 4 impingers, respectively, along with 20°C of water. For the second bath,
isopropanol was filled while it was maintained at -20°C using mechanical cooling device
(ECS-30SS, Eyela Co., Japan). Among 2 impingers, 1 unit was filled with 100 mL of
isopropanol, and the other was left as empty. In the series of impinger bottles, the first
impinger bottle acts as a moisture and particle collector, in which water, tar and soot are
condensed from the process gas by absorption in isopropanol. Other impinger bottles collect
tars, and the empty bottle collects drop.
Immediately after completing the sampling, the content of the impinger bottles were filtered
through a filter paper (Model F-5B, Advantec Co., Japan). The filtered isopropanol solution
was divided into two parts; the first was used to determine the gravimetric tar mass by
means of solvent distillation and evaporation by evaporator (Model N-1000-SW, Eyela,
Japan) in which temperature and steam pressure were 55~57°C and 230 hPa, respectively.
The second was used to determine the concentrations of light tar compounds using GC-FID
(Model 14B, Shimadzu, Japan).
Quantitative tar analysis was performed on a GC system, using a RTX-5 (RESTEK) capillary
column (30 m - 0.53 mm id, 0.5 μm film thickness) and an isothermal temperature profile at
Production of Activated Char and Producer Gas Sewage Sludge 139
45°C for the first 2 min, followed by a 7 °C/min temperature gradient to 320°C and finally
an isothermal period at 320°C for 10 min. Helium was used as a carrier gas. The temperature
of the detector and injector were maintained at 340 and 250°C, respectively.
Fig. 2. Tar sampling line system
2.3 Sludge char and gas analysis
2.3.1 Pore development in sludge char
The structural characterization of the sewage sludge char was carried out by physical
adsorption of N2 at -196°C. The adsorption isotherms were determined using
nanoPOROSITY (Model nanoPOROSITY-XQ, MiraeSI Co. Ltd, Korea). The surface area was
calculated using the BET (Brauner-Emmet-Teller) equation. Using BJH (Barret-Joyner-
Halenda) equation, incremental pore volume and mean pore size was calculated. To
compare pore development in sludge char, SEM (scanning electron microscopy; Model S-
4800, Hitachi Co., Japan) was used, and image was taken at 50,000X resolution for
morphological analysis. Chemical properties and constituent components were analyzed via
EDX (Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy; Model 7593-H, Horiba, UK).
2.3.2 Sampling and analysis producer gas
The produced gas was sampled for 5 minutes in a stainless cylinder as sampling gas flow
rate is 1 L/min. As can be seen in figure 2, a set of backup VOC adsorber was installed
downstream of the series of impinger bottles to protect the column of the gas
chromatography from the residual solvent or VOCs, which may have passed through the
impinger train. The set of backup VOC adsorber consists of two cotton filters and an
activated carbon filter connected in a series. Gas analysis was conducted with GC-TCD
(Model CP-4900 Varian, Netherland). MolSieve 5A PLOT column for H2, CO, O2, and N2
and PoraPLOT Q column for CO2, CH4, C2H4, and C2H6 were used for simultaneous
3. Results and discussion
3.1 Dried sludge characteristics
Sludge from a local wastewater treatment plant was dewatered by a centrifuging. And then
the dewatered sludge was dried to less than 10% of moisture content using a rotary kiln
type dryer developed by the corresponding researcher. The pyrolysis gasification is a
140 Integrated Waste Management – Volume I
process of which heat is applied by external source or partial oxidation. Vaporization
temperature of moisture is lower than thermal decomposition temperature for organic
compound in sludge. Therefore, high moisture content in sewage sludge will show
significant energy loss due to preemptive utilization of the heat for drying.
In addition, delayed pyrolysis gasification will affect the producer via reaction with
moisture and reactant. Therefore, less than 10% of moisture content in the dried sludge was
taken for this study.
Table 2 shows proximate analysis and ultimate analysis on the dried sludge.
Proximate analysis (%)
Moisture Volatile matter Fixed carbon Ash
9.7 51.7 6.1 32.5
Ultimate analysis (%)
C H O N S
52.3 8.2 32.2 7.92 0.01
Table 2. Properties of the dried sludge
3.2 Thermal behavior analysis
To determine pyrolysis temperature, TGA (thermo gravimetric analysis) and DTG (derived
thermo-gravimetric) analysis was shown in figure 3. According to TGA and DTG results, the
maximum weight loss temperature and final decomposition temperature, etc can be derived
(Karayildirim et al, 2006).
Rate of weight loss (%/sec)
Weight loss (%)
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900
Fig. 3. TGA and DTG for pyrolysis of the dried sewage sludge
Thermal decomposition of the dried sludge showed weight loss after evaporation of small
moisture content at 100~150°C as shown in DTG curve. This could be elucidated by two
steps. First step (primary pyrolysis) is discharging of volatile component at 200~500°C, and
the second step is decomposition of inorganic compound at over 500°C. First step for
volatile component discharge displayed two peaks, and it can be explained as follows. The
first peak might be due to decomposition and devolatilization of less complex organic
Production of Activated Char and Producer Gas Sewage Sludge 141
structures which is a small fraction. The second peak was caused by decomposition of more
complex organic structures corresponding to a larger fraction. Second step (secondary
pyrolysis) is related to decomposition of inorganic compound as described before. In first
step, TGA displayed 57% at 500°C, and 900°C for the second step was 46.2%. That is, 43% of
moisture content and volatile component was discharged during the first step, and in
second step 10.8% reduction (from first step) was corresponded to decomposing ash which
is an inorganic component in dried sludge.Therefore, for the pyrolysis gasification
experiment in purpose of improved yield of producer gas and higher adsorption rate,
pyrolysis carbonization were maintained at 450°C which discharges the largest amount of
volatile component, and steam activation was set to 850°C for increasing the porosity in the
3.3 Characteristics of a pyrolysis gasifier
Figure 4 shows mass yield for char, tar, and gas from a pyrolysis gasifier. The product
amount ordered was producer gas of 43.6%, sludge char of 35.4% and tar of 21%. As
described before, the corresponding experiment setup was made to primary pyrolysis
carbonization at screw carbonizer which is set to 450°C and post-activation at rotary kiln
activator along with steam injection, which is set to 820°C.
Producer gas was formed by decomposition and volatilization of organic compound in a
screw carbonizer (refer first step description of DTG in figure 3), and gas formation was
increased due to steam reforming of tar and char in a rotary kiln activator. Sludge char in
mass was reduced by vaporization of volatile component during the passing of the
carbonizer, and steam gasification and inorganic decomposition in the activator. Heavy tar
was formed and then it was converted into producer gas and light tar at the activator.
Mass yield (%)
Char Tar Gas
Fig. 4. Mass yield of the products
3.3.1 Characteristics of the sludge char
Figure 5 compares incremental pore volume and SEM photos of the dried sludge and sludge
1982; Lu, 1995) i.e. micropores (<20 Å), mesopores (20∼500 Å) and macropores (>500 Å). Pore
char. The pore size classification in this study follows the IUPAC classification (IUPAC,
142 Integrated Waste Management – Volume I
dried sludge, and pore distribution was less than 500 Å, which is comprised of micropores
of sludge char after carbonization activation showed significant increase compared to the
and mesopores. The pyrolysis gasifier in this study had been designed as continuously
combined type for carbonization of dried sludge at a screw carbonizer and steam activation
at a rotary activator. The dried sludge experienced evaporating of moisture and
decomposing of organic component for pore development through passing the screw
carbonizer (Lu, 1995). And then carbonized material was exposed to steam at the rotary
activator for the formation and development of micropoees and mesopores. For steam
activation in developing micropores, steam should deeply penetrate into pores of the
carbonized material for surface reaction. High temperature activation had the benefit of
diffusion and penetration of the steam to develop micropore. On the other hand, it was
blocked by tar in the carbonized material, resulted as well-developed mesopore. This is the
reason that the sludge char from the carbonization activation had well-developed
micrepores and mesopores. Sludge drying was made with a parallel flow rotary kiln drier
with direct-hot gas application. Hot gas inflow in turbulent flow was directly contacted with
the dewatered sludge in the dryer. Inside of the dryer was set to 255°C in average value.
For dried sludge, small portion of micropore and mesopore was formed. It is considered to
be formed due to discharging of volatile organic material and dehydroxlation of inorganic
material from the dried sludge. Bagreev et al. proved that water released by the
dehydroxylation of inorganic material could aid pore formation and moreover could act as
an agent for creating micropores (Bagreev et al, 2001). In addition, Inguanzo et al. proposed
that carbonization increases the porosity through unblocking many of the pores obscured by
volatile matter (Inguanzo et al, 2001). Surface of the dried sludge from SEM photograph in
50,000 times of magnification shows smooth surface with less pores, but the sludge char
presents overall formation of pores.
Dried sludge Sludge char
Incremental pore volume (cm /g A)
20 A 20 A
20 100 500 1000
Average pore diameter (A)
Fig. 5. Incremental pore volume and SEM images of the dried sludge and sludge char
Table 3 compares the results of the sludge char made from this study and 3 types adsorbent
from the study of Thana Phuphuakrat etc (Phuphuakrat et al, 2010). For the sludge char,
Production of Activated Char and Producer Gas Sewage Sludge 143
specific surface area and pore volume were smaller than commercial activated carbon, and
mean pore size was larger. The sludge char displayed mesopore similar to wood chip and
synthetic porous cordierite, but the activated carbon featured micropore.
Adsorption capability of the sludge char was less than the one with wood chip, but larger
than the one of activated carbon and synthetic porous cordierite. The adsorption experiment
in this study was conducted by using benzene only. So the comparison in the adsorption
capacity has difficulty because the study of Thana Phuphuakrat etc was achieved in a
continuous test rig using Japanese cedar which produced pyrolysis gas including all tars
and water. However, it might be considered that the wood chip adsorbed large amount of
steam when compared to the sludge char, because of hydrophilic surface and mesoporous
material favoring water adsorption. Although the test in non-condensable light aromatic
hydrocarbon (e.g. benzene) was conducted in this study, it should be expected for the
sludge char to adsorb well for the condensable light PAH (e.g. naphthalene, anthracene,
pyrene) due to having mesopores as proved in the other study.
Specific surface Mean pore size Pore volume
area (m2/g) (Å) (cm3/g)
Sludge char1) 98.1 63.49 0.2354 120.6
987.1 11.28 0.5569 97.5
Wood chip 1.072 100.77 0.0058 155.7
porous 6.045 27.43 0.0083 12.8
1) Sludge char from this study
Table 3. Porous characteristics and adsorption capacity of the adsorbents from this study
and other results (Phuohuakrat et al, 2010)
A semi quantitative chemical analysis of dried sludge and sludge char, figure 6 and table 4,
was obtained from the EDX analyzer coupled to SEM measurements. The results indicate
that both samples present relatively high carbon content in addition to mineral components.
The relative amount of carbon decreased after carbonization and activation, as expected
considering the decomposition of the organic components.
These atoms might be considered as the potential catalysts for pyrolysis reaction. For
example, with Al, if existing in the form of Al2O3, it would be an acid catalyst for cracking
reaction (Sinfelt & Rohrer, 1962); or with K, and Ca atoms, they were already reported as the
catalyst for biomass pyrolysis in literature (Yaman, 2004).
Figure 7 shows the N2 adsorption-desorption isotherm for the dried sludge and sludge char.
According to the isothermal adsorption graphs, the dried sludge exhibited only a small
amount of adsorption, but the sludge char displayed a larger amount of adsorption at lower
nitrogen concentrations. As shown in figure 5, the sludge char exhibited well-developed
micro- and meso-pore structures. The analysis on the adsorption isotherm provides an
assessment for the pore size distribution. According to the IUPAC classification, the curve of
the sludge char corresponds to Type V isotherm. A characteristic of the Type V isotherm is
the hysteresis loop, which is associated with the capillary condensation in mesopores and
limiting uptake at high relative pressure (Khalili et al, 2000).
144 Integrated Waste Management – Volume I
800 Sludge char
S K Ca
Cl Ti Ba Fe Zn
0 2 4 6 8 10
Fig. 6. EDX spectrums of dried sludge and sludge char
Item C O Mg Al Si P S Cl K Ca Ti Fe Zn Ba
sludge 53.65 44.62 0.06 0.23 0.45 0.55 0.03 0.01 0.06 0.07 0.01 0.24 0.02 0
char 47.65 44.83 0.14 1.21 5.34 0.46 0.03 0.02 0.09 0.11 0 0.21 0 0.01
Table 4. Elements content of dried sludge and sludge char
160 Dried sludge adsorption
Dried sludge desorption
Adsorbed amount of N2 (cm3/g)
140 Sludge char adsorption
Sludge char desorption
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1
Relative pressure (P/Po)
Fig. 7. Isothermal adsorption-desorption linear plot
Production of Activated Char and Producer Gas Sewage Sludge 145
3.3.2 Tar characteristics for the pyrolysis gasification
Results produced from the pyrolysis gasifier were shown in table 5.
Representative tars for the corresponding benzene ring were selected to benzene (1 ring),
naphthalene (2 ring), anthracene (3 ring) and pyrene (4 ring). And the representative tars
with nitrogen for the sewage sludge (Fullana et al, 2003) were taken as benzonitrile and
benzeneacetonitrile. Gravimetric tar was 26.3 g/Nm3. Total concentration of light tar was
10.9 g/Nm3, and its amount order was benzene, naphthalene, benzonitrile,
benzeneacetonitrile, anthracene, and pyrene. Dried sludge formed sludge char, tar, and gas
during pyrolysis at screw carbonizer, and then steam activation was achieved in rotary
activator. The gravimetric tar is total amount of tar after passing carbonization and
activation process. Benzene and naphthalene among light tar are products produced during
secondary pyrolysis at carbonizer, and some part of both tars converts to gas during steam
activation at activator. In addition, anthracene and pyrene were directly formed by primary
pyrolysis from dried sludge at carbonizer. Both tars should be known as not affecting by
carbonization-activation temperature and steam amount (Umeki, 2009).
Gravimetric Benzo- Benzene-
Benzene Naphthalene Anthracene Pyrene
tar nitrile acetonitrile
26.3 6.31 2.97 0.87 0.12 0.61 0.11
Table 5. Tar concentrations from a pyrolysis gasifier (unit: g/Nm3)
3.3.3 Producer gas characteristics
Table 6 shows producer gas concentration and higher heating value from a pyrolysis
gasifier. Major components in gas were analyzed to be hydrogen, carbon monoxide,
methane, and carbon dioxide along with trace amount of nitrogen and oxygen. The higher
heating value was 13,400 kJ/Nm3 having half value of natural gas.
H2 CO CH4 CO2 C2H4 C2H6 O2 N2
41.2 17.3 9.5 15.4 0 0 0.5 3.3 13,400
Table 6. Concentration of producer gas (dry vol. %) and higher heating value (kJ/Nm3)
Hydrogen was produced by the cracking of the volatile matter generated by the pyrolysis
gasification. Methane resulted from cracking and depolymerization reactions, while carbon
monoxide and carbon dioxide were produced from decarboxylation and depolymerization
or the secondary oxidation of carbon (Xiao et al, 2010). In addition, the presence of steam at
high temperatures gave rise to in situ steam reforming of the volatile matters and partial
gasification of the solid carbonaceous residue, as shown in the reactions of Eqs. (1) and (2).
Non-condensable products may also undergo gas phase reactions with each other. For
example, the CO and CH4 contents may be affected by the methane gasification and water
gas shift reactions, as shown in Eqs. (3) and (4) (Domínguez et al, 2006).
- Steam reforming reaction:
Organics ( g ) H 2O ( g ) CO H 2 (1)
- Steam gasification reaction:
C ( s ) H 2O ( g ) CO H 2 , H 298 K 132kJ mol 1 (2)
146 Integrated Waste Management – Volume I
- CH4 gasification reaction:
CH 4 H 2O CO 3H 2 , H 298 K 206.1kJ mol 1 (3)
- CO shift reaction:
CO H 2O CO2 H 2 , H 298 K 41.5 kJ mol 1 (4)
High temperatures were also responsible for the reduction of C2H4, C2H6 and C3H8. Some of
the typical reactions are as follows (Zhang et al, 2010):
C2 H 6 C2 H 4 H 2 (5)
C2 H 4 CH 4 C (6)
However, it should be noted that the gas composition may not exclusively be the result of
tar cracking and the partial gasification of char due to the complicated interactions of the
intermediate products, which would probably affect the final gas composition.
3.4 Plasma reformer and adsorber characteristics
The plasma reformer was installed for converting produced tar from the pyrolysis gasifier
into syngas via decomposition and steam reforming. In addition, the fixed bed adsorber was
implemented for adsorption of by-passed tar from the plasma reformer.
3.4.1 Tar destruction performance
Fig. 8 shows the results of tar sampling at the rear section of the pyrolysis gasifier, plasma
reformer, and fixed bed adsorber. Gravimetric tar concentration at the outlet of
carbonization activator was 26.3 g/Nm3, and it was reduced to 4.4 g/Nm3 at the reformer
outlet. Decomposition efficiency of the corresponding gravimetric tar was 83.2%. For light
tar, total amount of carbonization activator outlet was 10.9 g/Nm3. The concentration was
reduced to 1.3 g/Nm3 at the outlet of reformer, and the destruction efficiency of the light tar
was 87.9%. Each concentration of the light tars was found to be 0.62 g/Nm3 for benzene,
0.45 g/Nm3 for naphthalene, 0.14 g/Nm3 for anthracene, 0.021 g/Nm3 for pyrene, 0.08
g/Nm3 for benzonitrile, and 0.015 g/Nm3 for benzeneacetonitrile.
Decomposition of heavy tar was happened due to plasma cracking and carbon formation in
Eqs. (7) and (8) (Tippayawong & Inthasan, 2010). In addition, steam in producer gas from
the pyrolysis gasifier formed excitation species as shown in Eq. (9), and the radicals reduced
light tar and carbon black which produce by the reactions of plasma cracking and carbon
formation (Guo et al, 2008). It is remarkable that the tars from the pyrolysis gasification
should be decomposed significantly by the plasma reformer.
- Plasma cracking:
pCn H x qCm H y rH 2 (7)
- Carbon formation:
Cn H x nC ( x / 2) H 2 (8)
Production of Activated Char and Producer Gas Sewage Sludge 147
- Water excitation:
H 2O H , e eq , OH , H 2 , H 2O2 , H 3O , Oh (9)
In Eq. (9), CnHx represents tar, such as the large molecular compounds, and CmHy represents
a hydrocarbon with a smaller carbon number compared to that of CnHx.. Discharged
residual tar from the plasma reformer was removed by the fixed bed adsorber filled with
sludge char. Gravimetric tar at the adsorber outlet displayed 0.5 g/Nm3, which is 88.6% of
removal efficiency. Total amount of light tar was 0.39 g/Nm3, which is corresponded to
40.5% of removal efficiency. The relevant concentration was 0.28 g/Nm3 for benzene, 0.09
g/Nm3 for naphthalene, 0.14 g/Nm3 for anthracene, 0.01 g/Nm3 for benzonitrile, and 0.003
g/Nm3 for benzeneacetonitrile. Among residual tar, heavy tar was mostly removed at
adsorber, and non-condensed light tar that was not adsorbed was considered to be passed
through the adsorber. For satisfactory IC engine operation, an acceptable particle content
<50 mg/Nm3 and a tar content <100 mg/Nm3 is postulated (Milne et al, 1998). Therefore, 0.5
g/Nm3 of tar concentration in producer gas is sufficient for utilization. In addition,
sampling analysis on particulate matter was not conducted in this study, but the carbon
black was not formed due to steam reforming at the plasma reformer. Therefore, it is not
considered to be problematic in the operation.
Pyrolysis gasifier 7
25 6.31 Plasma reformer
Gravimetric tar (g/Nm )
Light tar (g/Nm3)
5 0.62 0.45 0.87 0.12 0.61 0.11
0.5 0.28 0.09 0.14 0.02 0.08 0.01 1
0 0 0.01 0
Gravimetic Benzene Naph- Anthra- Pyrene Benzo- Benzene-
tar thalene cene nitrile acetonitrile
Fig. 8. Gravimetric tar and light tar concentrations
3.4.2 Gas formation characteristics
Figure 9 shows the producer gas analysis sampled from the pyrolysis gasifier, plasma
reformer, and fixed bed adsorber, respectively. At the outlet of plasma reformer, gas
concentration was found to be 50.9% for H2, 22.3% for CO, 11% for CH4, 8.7% for CO2, 0.4%
for C2H2, and 0.2% for C2H4. Concentration of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and light
hydrocarbon (methane, ethylene, and ethane) were increased compared to the outlet
concentration of pyrolysis gasifier. For hydrogen and carbon monoxide, it was increased
148 Integrated Waste Management – Volume I
due to Eqs. (1) and (3), steam reforming and methane gasification reaction, respectively.
Light hydrocarbon was converted from light tar using tar plasma cracking reaction (7) in
portion and from chain reactions of Eqs. (5) and (6). In addition, decrease in carbon dioxide
was considered to be dry reforming as shown in Eq. (10) (Devi et al, 2005).
Cn H x nCO2 ( x / 2) H 2 2nCO (10)
According to gas analysis results at adsorber outlet, 50.5% of H2, 21.9% of CO, 10.5% of CH4,
7.7% of CO2, and 0.1% of C2H2 were displayed. Compared to the results at plasma reformer
outlet, the corresponding concentration was slightly decreased within measurement
tolerance, but it was not almost adsorbed. Higher heating value calculated using the gases
from each outlet. It was found to be 11,200 kJ/Nm3 for producer gas from the pyrolysis
gasifier, 13,992 kJ/Nm3 for the plasma reformer and 13,482 kJ/Nm3 for the adsorber. The
increase at the plasma reformer outlet is due to increased amount of combustible gases,
particularly methane having high calorific value.
Gas concentration (%)
9.5 10.5 8.7
10 0 0 0.5 1.8
0.4 0.2 0.8 2.5
0.1 0 0.9
H2 CO CH 4 CO2 C 2H 2 C2H 4 O2 N2
Fig. 9. Producer gas concentrations at exit of each part
To utilize dried sewage sludge as energy and resource, pyrolysis gasifier, plasma reformer,
and fixed bed adsorber system were established. From the pyrolysis gasifier, sludge char
and pyrolysis gases were produced along with small amount of tar. To improve tar
adsorption capability of sludge char, an integrated pyrolysis gasifier was developed for
achieving in sequential carbonization and activation. In addition, for higher producer gas
yield and tar reduction, a plasma reformer was installed at the rear section of the pyrolysis
gasifier, and a fixed bed adsorber, which contains sludge char from the pyrolysis gasifier,
Production of Activated Char and Producer Gas Sewage Sludge 149
was implemented for adsorption of residual tars. Sludge char from the pyrolysis gasifier
displayed 98.1 m2/g of specific surface area and 63.49 Å of mean pore size, showing the
distribution of mesopore and micropore with superior adsorption capability. Producer gas
was mostly comprised of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane, and carbon dioxide, and
the corresponding higher heating value was 13,400 kJ/Nm3. Gravimetric tar was 26.3
g/Nm3, and total amount of light tar was 10.9 g/Nm3, which showed benzene, naphthalene,
benzonitrile, and benzeneacetonitrile according to the concentration level. Plasma reformer
featured tar cracking and steam reformation, and decomposition efficiency of gravimetric
tar was 83.2%, which is corresponded to 4.4 g/Nm3. For light tar, total amount was 1.3
g/Nm3, which is 87.9% of decomposition efficiency. Hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and
methane among the components of reforming gas were increased, having 13,992 kJ/Nm3 of
higher heating value. Gravimetric tar at the adsorber outlet was 0.5 g/Nm3, which is 88.6%
of decomposition efficiency. Total amount of light tar was 0.39 g/Nm3, and it was 40.5% of
decomposition efficiency. According to gas analysis results, 50.5% of H2, 21.9% of CO, 10.5%
of CH4, 7.7% of CO2, and 0.1% of C2H2 were displayed, and the corresponding higher
heating value was 13,482 kJ/Nm3. Therefore, carbonization-activation of sludge can form
sludge char that could be utilized for tar adsorption, and the relevant clean producer gas is
proved to be applicable for heat engine.
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Integrated Waste Management - Volume I
Edited by Mr. Sunil Kumar
Hard cover, 538 pages
Published online 23, August, 2011
Published in print edition August, 2011
This book reports research on policy and legal issues, anaerobic digestion of solid waste under processing
aspects, industrial waste, application of GIS and LCA in waste management, and a couple of research papers
relating to leachate and odour management.
How to reference
In order to correctly reference this scholarly work, feel free to copy and paste the following:
Young Nam Chun (2011). Production of Activated Char and Producer Gas Sewage Sludge, Integrated Waste
Management - Volume I, Mr. Sunil Kumar (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-307-469-6, InTech, Available from:
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